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Is that Mom Committing Shoulder Surfing Identity Theft?


Anyone who is truly concerned about identity should certainly make themselves familiar with shoulder surfing.  While the term may provoke images of recreational activities, shoulder surfing is a much more severe concept.  In reality, this terminology is used to describe one of the many ways criminals obtain the personal information they need to commit identity theft

Just Who is Shoulder Surfing?  

It would be nice if we lived in an honest world.  Unfortunately, we must remain cautious whenever out and about with our personal information.  Many of us do not put much thought into routine trips to the market or a retail store, even though this is where shoulder surfing happens the most.  As you wait patiently in line to purchase your items, a slick identity thief just may be looking over your shoulder.  After pulling out a credit card or entering a pin number, they keep their eyes wide open in order to memorize your information.  This is why you should always remain cautious of your surroundings when out shopping.  When making a purchase, your credit card numbers should always be concealed from the view of the person behind you. 

You should also keep in mind that anyone could be an identity thief - this includes the clerk processing your purchase.   Be sure to keep an eye on the individual handling your card.  Take note of any suspicious activity and get your card back immediately.    

Simple Tips to Prevent Shoulder Surfing 

When making purchases inside of a store, it is always better to take the path less traveled.  This means that you should select a checkout lane with the least amount of consumers in order to decrease the risk of identity theft.  In most situations, this will be a lane that only accepts a small quantity of items or a self checkout lane.  If at all possible, you should avoid the long lines and find one that will provide much more privacy. 

You should also attempt to prevent shoulder surfing when withdrawing cash from an ATM machine.  This can be done by shielding personal information on the screen with your body.  The same strategy can be applied when filling out a withdrawal or deposit form at the bank.  You should always remember to take and properly dispose of your receipts as well.  

Though you should always be prepared, shoulder surfing is much more likely to happen in the midst of a busy holiday season.  Identity thieves are well aware of how compact the stores will be.  They also realize that many customers are rushed, overwhelmed and not as observant during these times. 

Shoulder surfing certainly is not the most technical form of identity theft, but several have used this method to commit major fraud.  The first step in prevention is understanding that this problem does exist.  If at all possible, you may even want to avoid using a credit card or writing checks during a busy shopping season.  While it may sound unreasonable, the less you flash your personal information, the more you reduce the possibility of being victimized by identity theft.   

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